By: Evangeline Lacroix
Washington – The 2016-2017 academic year is a budget planning year for American University administrators, and a new budget will be finalized in the summer. Members of Education Not Debt, a student group on campus, have worked on several campaigns this year to bring awareness to the student body.
Every two years, AU administrators create a new budget, working to balance the university’s strategic plan, resource allocation and a fair tuition. Through town halls and budget meetings, school administrators work to create a budget that is sent to the Board of Trustees who finalize and pass a new budget.
Education Not Debt works to make sure new budgets prioritize students.
“We make sure the cost of tuition freezes or has the lowest possible tuition hike,” said Amelia Covington, a sophomore studying international relations.
According to AU’s website, the tuition for a full time student during the 2016-2017 school year is 22,023 dollars a semester. As of March 6, as reported by The Eagle, tuition will rise four percent annually over the next two years.
Covington, who is originally from Chapel Hill, NC is a core member of Education Not Debt and has been involved since her freshman year.
The group does not have a hierarchical system, meaning that although there is an official e-board for formality, there is no leader. Instead, there are 10 to 15 students who consist of a core group. Each member brings their own skills to the table to promote what they are working on at the time, be that social media or public relation skills, to organizing skills, to dealing with the administration.
“We are not trying to get specific people to join our group, we are inclusive in the sense that anyone can join,” Covington said. “We defiantly need as many people as possible.”
Last spring semester, the group worked to create a referendum on Student Government’s ballot for students to vote on a tuition freeze. The referendum passed, with 84 percent of students supporting a freeze.
This semester they are working on a letter campaign to President Neil Kerwin about the budget freeze because he is the last person to look at the budget before it goes in front of the Board of Trustees. The group will also be tabling to get other students to write letters as well
“We want to insure student voices are heard in the budget process,” Covington said.
When the AU’s budget is not being worked on by on by administrators, the group works oto maintain fair monetary practices by the university. And they work to promote awareness of how student’s tuitions work.
“When I first came to AU I didn’t even realize [the administration] would hike up the cost,” Covington said.
In order to raise awareness of their group and of tuition on campus they host events. Last semester they worked with WVAU to put on an open mic about education.
They also work on more political campaigns that involve university administrators. Last semester the group worked on social media campaigns and several protests centered on the removal of board member Gary Cohn, the CEO of Goldman Sacs.
“He was on the board and profiting off of predatory student loans as the CEO of Goldman Sacs,” Covington said. “At the time we said fire Cohn, but since he was never hired, we were pushing for his removal.”
Education Not Debt, and other student activists who pushed for his removal were successful. Cohn is in the process of stepping down from the Board of Trustees.
Looking forward, Covington says it is important to stay connected to the student body to be able to complete successful campaigns.
“Even if people are not willing or able to be involved every week, even if they like our Facebook page to stay up to date, it is very useful to be able to galvanize the student body,” Covington said.